Gov. O’Malley says NRA is ‘drowning out’ support for gun control in Maryland


ANNAPOLIS, MD February 6 : Maryland Del. Kelly Schultz (R-Frederick) tells a crowd opposed to O’Malley’s response to the Newtown shooting to “hold onto your guns.” Over 700 people signed up to testify for and against the governor’s gun-control bill on February 6. (Jonathan Newton/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley took a swipe at the National Rifle Association on Friday, publishing a blog post on O’Malley’s state Web site titled “The NRA: Drowning out Marylanders.”

The governor’s move comes two days after gun-rights advocates swamped the first bill hearing on O’Malley’s proposed gun-control legislation in the wake of the December mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Over 700 people, the vast majority opposed to O’Malley’s plan, signed up to testify outside the Annapolis hearing room on Wednesday. Another 300 signed petitions against the bill at a rally outside the State House.

O’Malley has proposed an assault-weapons ban and new licensing rules that would require gun purchasers to submit to digital fingerprinting. His bill would also seek to enhance school security and expand the number of categories of mental-health problems that can preclude state residents from owning guns.

On Friday, the blog post written by Zoe Pagonis, a staffer in the governor’s office, suggested that the show of force on Wednesday was misleading.

“The majority of Marylanders, including many responsible gun owners, support common sense legislation to prevent gun violence,” Pagonis wrote. “But the PR wing of the NRA, lobbyists for gun manufacturers, and others who want to block any and all gun safety ideas would have you to believe otherwise. For weeks, they’ve been spreading falsehoods and using scare tactics to mislead Marylanders.”

The post did not elaborate, but went on to list comments from about a dozen supporters of O’Malley’s plan. The NRA “may be shouting louder, but Marylanders know better. Here are a few of the voices that have been drowned out by the NRA propaganda machine,” it said.

O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory called the blog post “an opportunity to talk more about what the bill really does.”

“Because [opponents] are so vocal, what the bill actually does is not being heard,” Guillory said, adding that the governor signed off on the post.

NRA officials helped organize Wednesday’s show of opposition in Maryland, but the group mostly sought to make its case through dozens of testimonials from gun owners in the state who said they feared for their safety without the protection of a firearm.

The governor’s blog post was sure to inflame gun-rights advocates. It came after O’Malley sent an e-mail to Maryland gun owners this week that some took as offensive and as an abuse of the state’s list of registered gun owners.

O’Malley used the occasion of Saturday’s upcoming junior waterfowl hunting day in Maryland to send the e-mail touting his gun-control package and to stress that it would carve out exemptions for hunting rifles and not interfere with Marylanders’ ability to “introduce a young hunter to the sport and the conservation stewardship ethic borne of that experience.”

It struck some hunters as disingenuous because they read O’Malley’s bill as making it illegal for anyone under 21 to possess firearm ammunition. The governor’s office says a provision in the bill allows residents under 21 to buy ammunition for hunting rifles.

Here’s the full text of O’Malley’s letter to hunters:

Dear Friend,

I wanted to make sure you are aware of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ latest Junior Waterfowl Hunting Day, which takes place this Saturday, February 9. Junior Hunting Days provide wonderful opportunities for young hunters and their adult mentors to get outside and enjoy the proud tradition of hunting in Maryland.

Hunting is a part of our history and is woven into the fabric of our State’s culture. We appreciate everything you and all other conservation-minded hunters do for Maryland.

I also want to take this opportunity to address you directly about the proposal we recently introduced to reduce gun violence. Our goal is to enact common sense proposals to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, and to try to reduce the risk of a mass shooting like the one that occurred in Newtown.

Let me be clear: We are committed to protecting hunters and their traditions. That’s why we specifically carved out shotguns and rifles from the licensing requirements of our bill.

This bill will NOT impact your ability to introduce a young hunter to the sport and the conservation stewardship ethic borne of that experience.

Good luck on Saturday and I look forward to hearing your stories from the field.

Sincerely,

Martin O’Malley

Governor

Aaron Davis covers D.C. government and politics for The Post and wants to hear your story about how D.C. works — or how it doesn’t.
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